Project

International Migration and Labour Turnnover

Goal: This research project aims to analyze the relationship between population movements and contemporary work, considering the construction sector, where the intake of foreign workers is a key factor. In particular, through a comparative approach the project will study the different experiences of Ukrainian and Moldovan workers in Italy and in Russia. As a matter of fact, unlike other Eastern European countries, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine are crossed by strong tensions due to international mobility of migrant workers towards Russia and European countries. The aim is to analyze labour processes with low technological intensity and to highlight how they can be compared with other types of activities within the countries and at international level.
The general hypothesis supporting this research is that working conditions, considering the harmfulness, the work-loads and the danger exposure are producing a high turnover among workers. Given these conditions the labour demand needs the enlargement of the catchment area of labor-recruitment of workers.
In order to study the enlargement of labor-recruitment researchers will focus on the role of social actors such as, employment international agencies, actors dealing with the recruitment of teams of workers, public services dealing with workers’ placement.
The research aims to investigate these aspects in comparative terms, in order to highlight the transformations that are occurring among migrants who have similar family and social backgrounds irrespective of final destinations of migration trajectories.
A first part of the research will involve the native areas of migrant workers, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, in order to make inquires about their background in terms of family, social and working conditions, and to verify the reasons these migrants are addressed to eastern or to western countries.
The research will focus on the study of several construction sites situated in Russia (Saint Petersburg and Moscow), and in Italy (Milan and Padua).
The specific objects of this project are:
1) The analysis of the scientific literature on the migrations coming from Ukraine and from the Republic of Moldova and on the construction sector in Italy and in Russia as well;
2) The survey of: the labor market, the labor contracts and the working conditions in the construction sector in these different countries. The research will stress the attention to the analysis of the work-pace, the labour relations, the frequency and the types of the industrial accidents, the wage levels, the undeclared work and the levels of the labor conflicts. The aim is also to analyze types of working activities through a paradigm focused on the idea of the immobilized worker, far from the representation of free waged worker;
3) The analysis of the role played by the recruitment agencies, by other actors in managing the labor force recruitment and the intermediation of workers in the construction sites of the Russian and of the Italian cities;
4) The reconstruction of the profiles of Ukrainian and Moldovan workers employed in Russia and in Italy, considering the country of arriving, the age, the education, the career paths, the previous migrant experiences and the availability of social networks.

Regarding the methodology, this research project plans to interweave different approaches. On one hand there will be a literature search and the analysis of statistics and other records, on the other hand it will be employed an ethnographic observation, some in-depth and semi-structured interviews. The results of each research will be inserted in two preliminary reports that will be discussed after the first year of the research project. The two final reports will be presented and discussed at the end of the research project at an international seminar, in order to synthesize the research produced and to propose other researches that will arrange to deepen the comparison of the migration mobility in Russia and in some countries of European Union.

Date: 1 January 2010 - 31 December 2012

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Project log

Claudio Morrison
added a research item
This chapter analyses current trends, main institutional features and employment practices in the Russian construction sector. Based on ethnographic research in Russia and Moldova, the study adopts a bottom-up approach privileging the point of view of migrant labor which dominates shop-floor trades in the sector. The chapter focuses on recruitment, employment relations and work organization to understand their impact on the quality of the labor process and workers’ well-being.
Claudio Morrison
added a research item
We investigate migrant construction workers’ experiences in the Former Soviet Union, examining their attitudes to other ethno‐national groups, unions and collective action. Industrial relations and migration studies view migrant workers’ hypermobility and diversity, under conditions of low union coverage and rising nationalism, as potentially obstructing consciousness‐raising and mobilizing. Workers in our study faced union indifference, ethno‐national segregation and discrimination. However, managerial abuses, informality and contestation from below led to spontaneous mobilization. Lack of institutional channels to solve these disputes drove workers’ further mobility. Complex mobility trajectories and collective action translated into increased awareness of collective interests and rejection of nationalist ideologies. The outcome is ‘multinational workers’ potentially resistant to nation‐state politics and capital's logics but also aware of the value and usefulness of collective solidarities. Thus, previous arguments solely associating exit with individualistic attitudes, and post‐socialist legacies with workers’ quiescence present only partial pictures.
Claudio Morrison
added a research item
This chapter presents to the generalist HRM reader a background to migration studies in order to understand the challenges and opportunities that labour mobility creates for organisations. Theoretical, empirical and historical tools are provided to interpret the context of contemporary labour migration from a critical perspective. Despite the growth of mobility and its greater significance at societal level, scholarship on this subject in HRM and cognate disciplines remains quantitatively and qualitatively limited. Here we employ an interdisciplinary approach, which highlights the social, gendered and multinational dimensions of labour mobility. This review affords a more realistic picture of migration patterns and possibly a better understanding of the demands it makes on organisations.
Claudio Morrison
added a research item
This review explores Russian academic debates around migration, highlighting theoretical, empirical and policy issues which are specific to the Former Soviet Union (FSU). In global terms, FSU migration volumes are high: the Ukraine-Russia migration corridors are second only to those straddling the border between Mexico and the United States. Russia’s wealthiest regions are the primary destinations of both internal and FSU migrants. In line with global trends, the response by host countries’ populations and authorities is one of hostility informed by media-fuelled xenophobia. The chaotic and disruptive nature of post-socialist transformations has buffered the effects and lessened the perception of the multiple crises which have enveloped the European Union in the last decade. Eurasian integration and the rift with the West have produced different economic and political conjunctures, whose defining moments are the Ukrainian conflict, Western sanctions and worsening terms of trade for key exports. In Russia, migration debates have focused on FSU-specific emergencies including demographic unbalances, the repatriation of the Russian diaspora and the prospects of large scale Central Asian migration.Migration processes, their subjective understanding as well as Russian policies directed at them, have been informed by the long history of mobility across the Eurasian space. FSU migrants who make up the vast majority of Russia’s migrant population still view the latter as ‘a common house’, a transnational space open to all FSU citizens irrespective of current nationality.
Olga Cretu
added a research item
This thesis analyses transborder career trajectories to explain how the micro-level of working agency is imbedded into broader social processes. Women migrants’ professional careers are understudied in social sciences which overwhelmingly remain gender-blind and nationally bound. As a starting point this thesis understands working lives as a complex social phenomenon. The interdisciplinary socio-analytical framework elaborated within this thesis is rooted in the sociology of work and migration as well as in gender and area studies. The research develops a trans-border career trajectory approach which connects meanings, strategies and actions over time and space. The multi-dimensional impact of family and migration processes on working lives is critically analysed. Trans-border careers are explored from three interconnected perspectives: work-related values, resources for career-making and work-life balance practices. The thesis focuses on women professionals originating from post-Soviet Eurasia and settling in the UK. In-depth interviews have been conducted with thirty five women working in London. The participants moved to the UK between 1991 and 2011 from Belorussia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. They are ethnically diverse and speak Russian as a first or second language; most of them are in their thirties. This study conceptualises migrants as strategising agents and raises the visibility of a particular group of non-EU women professionals who often move through non-skilled migration routes. It sheds light on the largely unexplored area of post-Soviet migration of professionals to ‘the West’ and to London, in particular. This research also challenges ethnocentrism in migration studies and methodological nationalism in social sciences. The overarching argument of this thesis is that, on the one hand, neoliberal restructuring in the post-socialist region leads to mass out-migration as a life scenario. On the other, growing appreciation of ‘skills’ in knowledge-based economies allows for some (women) migrants with a strong ability to strategise around different forms of capital to secure middle class positions in ‘the civilised West’. They can do so mainly by building professional careers and creating dual career families across borders. Therefore, trans-border careers are interpreted as part of life strategising; however, this is not necessarily a case of upward social mobility. Key findings suggest that these processes can be better understood in terms of social reproduction of knowledge workers and dual career families across time and space. Finally, this thesis shows how the study of migrants’ working lives can contribute to the understanding of societal transformation in a particular country or region of origin (the post-socialist one here) and a particular place of destination (London here) as well as trans-nationally. In short, transborder career trajectories reflect the on-going interplay between continuities and changes in our society. Thus this thesis makes an interdisciplinary contribution to knowledge.
Claudio Morrison
added a research item
This article explores ethical dilemmas in researching the world of work. Recent contributions to WES have highlighted challenges for engaged research. Based on the emancipatory epistemologies of Bourdieu, Gramsci and Burawoy, the authors examine moral challenges in workplace fieldwork, question the assumptions of mainstream ethics discourses and seek to identify an alternative approach. Instead of an ethics premised on a priori, universal precepts that treasures academic neutrality, this article recognises a morality that responds to the social context of research with participation and commitment. The reflection in this study is based on fieldwork conducted in the former Soviet Union. Transformation societies present challenges to participatory ethnography but simultaneously provide considerable opportunities for developing an ethics of truth. An approach that can guide engaged researchers through social conflict’s ‘messy’ reality should hinge on loyalty to the emancipation struggles of those engaged in it.
Claudio Morrison
added a research item
La migrazione all'interno dell'Unione Sovietica è stata a lungo ignorata sia a causa dei severi controlli messi in atto sulla mobilità fino almeno al 1991 sia per le tendenze disgregatrici del periodo di transizione che hanno largamente dominato le narrazioni dell'area, La mobilità dei lavoratori, tuttavia, è stata una caratteristica fondamentale della società sovietica, attraverso la quale i lavoratori esprimevano la propria autonomia e l'insoddisfazione verso il sistema del socialismo realizzato. Sulla base di un'etnografia multisituata con alcuni lavoratori edili e le loro comunità in Russia e in Moldova, questo studio evidenzia come la rottura dello spazio sovietico in Stati nazionali indipendenti non ha affatto fermato i flussi migratori, ma ne ha influenzato la natura a danno dei lavoratori. Affrontando lo sradicamento, la segregazione nel mercato del lavoro e i processi di discriminazione, i lavoratori migranti sembrano rifiutare il nazionalismo e la xenofobia, abbracciando piuttosto una prospettiva multinazionale. Questo studio si basa su concetti – quali il " mobility power " , l'uscita transnazionale e il multinazionalismo dei lavoratori – recentemente elaborati da alcuni sociologi del lavoro per comprendere i modelli di migrazione europea dal punto di vista dei lavoratori. Si suggerisce che, per rendere conto dell'allargamento spaziale e temporale vissuto dai lavoratori migranti, sia necessario contemplare una prospettiva transnazionale. Guardando lo sviluppo delle loro soggettività attraverso i campi sociali transnazionali la ricerca dimostra l'importanza continua della questione della classe rispetto all'identità etnica o nazionale.
Claudio Morrison
added 3 research items
Il paradigma della catena globale del valore o delle merci (Global Value Chain o GVC e Global Commodity Chain o GCC) sviluppata da Gary Gereffi et al. (1994) mira a spiegare le trasformazioni nella gestione delle nuove strutture produttive che si sono sviluppate nel corso degli ultimi trent’anni. Alcuni autori hanno criticato questo approccio poiché tralascia il ruolo svolto da soggetti diversi dalle imprese, quali le istituzioni statali e internazionali, così come le influenze delle dinamiche sociali e lavorative nei processi economici (Smith et al., 2014). In questo articolo manteniamo un approccio che si basa sul concetto di produzione a rete globale, poiché riteniamo essenziale l’analisi sociale, politica e storica delle località in cui i nodi della rete si articolano (Bair, Werner 2011). Ci soffermiamo in particolare su due elementi cruciali nella produzione a rete globale: il contesto socio-istituzionale e le mutevoli caratteristiche della forza lavoro. Il focus sui soggetti che sono gli artefici delle istituzioni permette di comprendere in maniera dinamica l’uso e l’evoluzione degli apparati normativi e istituzionali.
Строители в России: мобильность, наём и стабильность рабочих мест постсоветских мигрантов-строителей Трудовая миграция до сих пор объяснялась такими причинами как различия в заработной плате, относительная легкость или трудность переезда в другую страну и присутствие или отсутствие сетей поддержки1. Мы рассматриваем это явление в связи с исторической потребностью капитала в постоянном расширении социо-географического пространства поиска рабочей силы, чтобы избежать промышленного конфликта и избавиться от текучести.Эмпирически данная статья обращена к не- достаточному освещению в литературе трудовой миграции из стран СНГ и среди них. Она также затрагивает связанные с этим аналитические и методологические ограничения в области знаний о миграции.Следуя за траекториями перемещения мигрантов по рынкам труда и рабочим местам, исследование раскрывает их индивидуальные и коллективные формы организации. Ключевая цель исследования состоит в определении ожиданий и надежд мигрантов, форм сопротивления и их влияния на миграционные модели.
Purpose This paper aims to identify the role of informal economic relations in the day-to-day working of organizations, thereby opening a way to theorizing and informed practice. We will present and discuss about the manifestation of informality in ‘everyday’ reality of Soviet and transformation economies. Informed by Cultural Theory and in particular the work of Gerald Mars, we are taking account ontologically and methodologically of Labor Process theory Design/methodology/approach Through presentation of ethnographic data of detailed accounts and case vignettes in production and retail in the Soviet period of the late 1970s and 1980s and from the construction sector in contemporary Russia, with a focus on the labor process, we inform and discuss key processes in the informal working of organizations. Findings In the Soviet system the informal economy co-existed in symbiosis with the formal command economy, implicitly adopting a ‘live and let live’ attitude. In addition, informal relations were essential to the working of work organizations, sustaining workers’ ‘negative control’ and bargaining power. Contemporary Russian capitalism, while embracing informal economic activities, a legacy of the Soviet period, advocates an ‘each to his own’ approach which retains the flexibility but not the bargaining space for employees. That facilitates exploitation, particularly of the most vulnerable workers, with dire consequences for the work process. Research limitations/implications The paper provides a platform for theorizing about the role and place of informal economic relations in organizations. Of importance to managerial practice, the paper informs on those aspects of the work routine that remain hidden from view and are often excluded from academic discourse. The social implications are profound, shedding light on central issues such as recruitment, income distribution, health & safety and ’deregulated forms of employment. Originality/value The paper examines economic behavior under different economic-political regimes demonstrating continuities and changes during a fundamental social-economic reorientation of an important regional economy, through close observation at the micro and meso-level of, respectively, the workplace, organizations and industry, outlining theoretical, practical and social implications.
Claudio Morrison
added a project goal
This research project aims to analyze the relationship between population movements and contemporary work, considering the construction sector, where the intake of foreign workers is a key factor. In particular, through a comparative approach the project will study the different experiences of Ukrainian and Moldovan workers in Italy and in Russia. As a matter of fact, unlike other Eastern European countries, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine are crossed by strong tensions due to international mobility of migrant workers towards Russia and European countries. The aim is to analyze labour processes with low technological intensity and to highlight how they can be compared with other types of activities within the countries and at international level.
The general hypothesis supporting this research is that working conditions, considering the harmfulness, the work-loads and the danger exposure are producing a high turnover among workers. Given these conditions the labour demand needs the enlargement of the catchment area of labor-recruitment of workers.
In order to study the enlargement of labor-recruitment researchers will focus on the role of social actors such as, employment international agencies, actors dealing with the recruitment of teams of workers, public services dealing with workers’ placement.
The research aims to investigate these aspects in comparative terms, in order to highlight the transformations that are occurring among migrants who have similar family and social backgrounds irrespective of final destinations of migration trajectories.
A first part of the research will involve the native areas of migrant workers, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, in order to make inquires about their background in terms of family, social and working conditions, and to verify the reasons these migrants are addressed to eastern or to western countries.
The research will focus on the study of several construction sites situated in Russia (Saint Petersburg and Moscow), and in Italy (Milan and Padua).
The specific objects of this project are:
1) The analysis of the scientific literature on the migrations coming from Ukraine and from the Republic of Moldova and on the construction sector in Italy and in Russia as well;
2) The survey of: the labor market, the labor contracts and the working conditions in the construction sector in these different countries. The research will stress the attention to the analysis of the work-pace, the labour relations, the frequency and the types of the industrial accidents, the wage levels, the undeclared work and the levels of the labor conflicts. The aim is also to analyze types of working activities through a paradigm focused on the idea of the immobilized worker, far from the representation of free waged worker;
3) The analysis of the role played by the recruitment agencies, by other actors in managing the labor force recruitment and the intermediation of workers in the construction sites of the Russian and of the Italian cities;
4) The reconstruction of the profiles of Ukrainian and Moldovan workers employed in Russia and in Italy, considering the country of arriving, the age, the education, the career paths, the previous migrant experiences and the availability of social networks.
Regarding the methodology, this research project plans to interweave different approaches. On one hand there will be a literature search and the analysis of statistics and other records, on the other hand it will be employed an ethnographic observation, some in-depth and semi-structured interviews. The results of each research will be inserted in two preliminary reports that will be discussed after the first year of the research project. The two final reports will be presented and discussed at the end of the research project at an international seminar, in order to synthesize the research produced and to propose other researches that will arrange to deepen the comparison of the migration mobility in Russia and in some countries of European Union.
 
Olga Cretu
added 2 research items
This article focuses on migrant workers’ agency through exploring the relationship between working and employment conditions, on one side, and labour mobility, on the other. The study is based on qualitative research involving workers from Moldova and Ukraine working in the Russian and Italian construction sector. Fieldwork has been carried out in Russia, Italy and Moldova to investigate informal networks, recruitment mechanisms and employment conditions to establish their impact on migration processes. Overcoming methodological nationalism, this study recognises transnational spaces as the new terrain where antagonistic industrial relations are rearticulated. Labour turnover is posited as a key explanatory factor and understood not simply as the outcome of capital recruitment strategies but also as workers’ agency.
Scholarship on international migration has shown how structural features of the global capitalist economy contribute to labour mobility. This paper looks into labour migrants’ recruitment and employment systems to identify their forms of resistance. The study is based on qualitative research involving workers from Moldova and Ukraine working in the Russian and Italian construction sector. Fieldwork has been carried out in Russia, Italy and Moldova. Overcoming methodological nationalism, this study recognises transnational spaces as the new terrain, where antagonistic industrial relations are rearticulated. Labour turnover is posited as key explanatory factor and understood not simply as the outcome of capital recruitment strategies but also as workers’ agency.
Claudio Morrison
added 2 research items
Can migrant workers gain recognition as fully fledged and multifaceted social agents rather than being classified as mere economic factors or diasporic beings? This chapter looks at labour migrants’ strategies reviewing the experience of construction workers moving across the EU and the former Soviet Union. The study unveils their aspirations and expectations and show how they translate into strategic options. Migrants’ accounts also reveal how they perceive the structural differences between these two geo-political spaces, ultimately drawing their own economic geography of countries of origin and destination. The research on which the study is based consists of ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews with Moldovan and Ukrainian construction workers and key experts based in Italy, Russia and Moldova. The analysis focuses on both strategies and class identities. Worker’s strategizing is understood as actively effecting migration flows as well as re-constructing ideationally migration spaces. Conversely, migration experiences have a bearing in redefining their working class identities. These issues exist within two areas of scholarly debate. Within migration scholarship, this approach embraces a social transformation perspective (Castles 2010, Massey et al. 1993, Massey and Taylor 2004), exploring issues of social reproduction away from traditional concerns with integration through social mobility. Within industrial relations, the research challenges methodological nationalism by identifying transnational spaces, rather than singular labour markets, as the terrain where conflict is articulated (Lillie and Greer 2007, Meardi 2012). As a result, a more nuanced picture emerges where such workers appear as more than just victims or marginal actors in niche labour markets. Agency is manifested through the expansion of strategic options and geographic destinations. We conceptualise these findings in terms of migrant’s “mental maps” and “geography of needs”. Mental maps are made of migrant’s aspirations and expectations projected onto transnational spaces. The association of social, economic and civic needs to specific geographical areas generates migrants’ own geography of social spaces where these needs can be pursued.
The construction industry historically is characterised by high levels of labour mobility favouring the recruitment of migrant labour. In the EU migrant workers make up around 25% of overall employment in the sector and similar if not higher figures exist for the sector in Russia. The geo-political changes of the 1990s have had a substantial impact on migration flows, expanding the pool of labour recruitment within and from the post-socialist East but also changing the nature of migration. The rise of temporary employment has raised concerns about the weakness and isolation of migrant workers and the concomitant risk of abuse. Migrant workers though cannot be reduced to helpless victims of state policies and employers’ recruitment strategies. Findings of the research presented here unveil how they meet the challenges of the international labour market, the harshness of debilitating working conditions and the difficult implications for their family life choices.